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Why the human rights and environmental movements must be allies not adversaries

Speakers: Michael Meacher MP, David Wolfe
Chair: Professor Conor Gearty, Centre for the Study of Human Rights
January 2006

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Abstract

Human rights is a subject defined by its focus on the person. A commitment to protection of the environment appears at first glance to be the opposite, a concern for what lies around us rather than for the rights we believe we should have. In the past environmental protection has sometimes been foiled by an over-emphasis on rights, especially property rights. Recently however environmental and human rights have come closer together. They share the same concerns: a mistrust of capitalism; anxiety about the quality of life; a lack of confidence in the capacity of traditional democratic forms of government to deliver right answers; and above all a strong fear for the future of the planet. With the environmental challenges facing the world now starker than ever, the need for a coalition between environmental and human rights activists has never been more obvious. But is it intellectually and organisationally possible? Can the two largest progressive movements of our global age work in tandem or are the forces that divide them greater than the emergency that demands they work together?

Michael Meacher MP was Minister of State for the Environment from May 1997 - June 2003. David Wolfe is a barrister at Matrix Chambers and has particular expertise in environmental law.

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